By Mike Still
HOLLIDAYSBURG - From the moment Nathan Pope woke up Monday morning, he had one thing on his mind.
Shakespeare, algebra, chemistry - none were nearly as important as what awaited the Hollidaysburg High School senior once classes were over.
Pope was eagerly waiting for his the start on the mound in a District 6 AAA playoff game.
"All day during school I was just focused," Pope said. "It was all I thought about all day."
Perhaps Pope envisioned himself leading Hollidaysburg to a dramatic victory. But the senior couldn't have imagined a more satisfying performance.
The University of Pittsburgh Johnstown recruit tossed a one-hit shutout against the Rangers, walking just one batter while striking out nine in a 6-0 win.
"That kid's the real deal," Forest Hills manager Joe Carpenter said of Pope. "He's dominant. You give him two or three runs and it's hard to come back."
The Golden Tigers did just that and gave Pope two runs of support in the first inning.
After Pope retired the side in order, Forest Hills starter Justin Gdula walked the first two batters of the inning.
Designated hitter Joe Glass singled up the middle to bring home leadoff batter Brett Hileman. Gdula got Corey Barr to go down swinging in the next at-bat, but gave up a two-out double to Aaron Burger.
Jordan Baum, who walked earlier in the inning, scored easily on the line drive to right field. Glass however was forced to try and run over catcher Pat Gully on a close play at the plate.
Gully dropped the ball, but Glass was called out and ejected from the game. Tempers flared after the play as Gully exchanged words with the Hollidaysburg bench and led a Forest Hills into a huddle full of energy.
The momentum appeared to be swinging in favor of the Rangers, but Hollidaysburg manager Joe Syznal kept his team level-headed.
"I just told the kids to keep playing," Syznal said. "It was handled the right way by the umpires and we moved on and both teams handled it very well and that's just part of baseball."
Pope kept cruising after the first, using his fastball to overpower the Rangers and relying on his defense to make the plays behind him.
"It makes all the difference in every game," Pope said of his defense, which made no errors on Monday.
Gdula couldn't find a way to silence the Golden Tigers' bats either. The right-hander was tagged for five earned runs on ten hits and walked four as well.
Burger and Chad Barton, who replaced glass as the designated hitter, led the Hollidaysburg offensive attack. Each collected two hits and knocked in three and two runs respectively.
The Golden Tigers scored in all but one inning, making the most of their opportunities and giving Pope the cushion he needed.
"Timely hitting, great pitching and defense is a good formula for a win," Syznal said. "I'll take that any time."
FOREST HILLS (0): Shope ss 301, Mickus 3b 300, Gdula p 300, Ohler lf 100, Belinda dh 200, Gully c 300, Wright rf 200, Baker cf 200, Smith 1b 200, Daniels 2b 200. Totals 24-0-1.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (6): Hileman ss 410, Baun 2b 411, Pope p 411, Glass dh 101, Barton dh 312, Barr rf 401, Larcoli c 311, Ford 1b 300, Scallen lf 311. Totals 32-6-10.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Forest Hills000 000 0 0 1 2
Hollidaysburg211 101 X 6 10 0
E Ohler 2. 2B Burger, Barton, Scallen. RBI Pope, Barton 2, Burger 3. WP Pope. LP Gdula. SO Pope 9, Gdula 6. BB Pope 1, Gdula 4. SB Hileman.